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Review: Windows Phone 8, a Look at the Competition

HTC Windows Phone 8X

For the past week I’ve been spending a lot of time with the HTC 8X on Verizon. The 8X is considered a signature Windows Phone, sporting a 4.3″ 720×1280 display, a 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage, NFC, dual band WiFi, LTE, Beats Audio, and an 8 MP 1080p shooter in back with a wide-angle 2.1 MP front camera. In short, Windows Phone has reached parity with Android and iOS in terms of specs.

When I last looked at Windows Phone I argued that while the operating system looks good and is certainly an improvement over Windows Mobile, the lack of apps, disappointing multi-tasking, and poor notification system kept Windows Phone from reaching feature parity with iOS and Android. Since then Android and iOS have propelled smartphone ownership to unprecedented levels while Windows Phone has remained a niche product in terms of market share. Read on to find out how Microsoft has changed Windows Phone for the better, what has stayed the same, and what Microsoft still needs to do to make Windows Phone succeed.

Software Design

Windows Phone 7 reinvented the design style that Microsoft began to push with Windows Media Center and the Zune by adding a more visual layer to a text-heavy user interface. The focus on text over images to represent UI has been slightly diminished in Windows Phone 8 with the option to shrink Live tiles down to just icons. That said, Windows Phone provides a nice balance between emphasizing text and icons at the same time.

Whether you like the stylistic choices or not, Microsoft has made an operating system that looks and feels consistent. Metro is not altogether different from the latest design choices being made by Google with Google Now, Gmail for iOS, and Google+. In fact, in many ways Windows Phone feels like what Google Now would be if it were a full operating system.

The Start screen is constantly flashing updated information in front of you in just about the right bites for you to chew. Everything looks clean and organized if not abrasively simple. Compared to the hyper-realistic design language found in iOS, Windows Phone 8 feels like a breath of fresh air even though it has essentially remained unchanged since Windows Phone launched back in 2010.

While the simplicity of Windows Phone sometimes works against its functionality, it presents a unique way to interact with the various sources of information in your life. Apps consolidate information across horizontal sections, encouraging you to explore the space. Large fonts summarize different sections of an app while icons flank the bottom portion of the screen. Again, this is not always the most functional method to display information, but it certainly makes Windows Phone stand out from the crowd. People who are looking for something that is simple but keeps them connected should find Windows Phone’s design appealing.

Start Screen

Start Screen

The updated Start screen was heralded by Microsoft as major improvement over the old Start screen. Microsoft is right that it is a major improvement, but it really should have been there from the beginning. In Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 you could rearrange the tiles on the Start screen, pin them and unpin them, but their size was decided by the app, not the user.

Microsoft is now giving users the ability to change the size of live tiles. This may seem like a minor change, but it’s an important one. On Windows Phone 7.x, the most amount of tiles you could see immediately after unlocking your screen was 8, whereas with Windows Phone 8 you could potentially see 28 live tiles upon unlocking your screen. This means that users can prioritize more apps towards the top of their Start screen.

The Start screen, while not tremendously different from the last iteration of Windows Phone, is far more useful now. That said, live tiles do not provide the same kind of customization or functionality as widgets. While widgets are not the superlative expression of functionality and productivity, they are often more useful than live tiles. For example, a Twitter widget can show you multiple mentions while a live tile only shows a preview of one notification (yes, you still often cannot see the full text of a notification from the live tiles).

The Start screen excels at giving users quick glances at information, but it still feels somewhat hampered by design choices that Microsoft made early on. Adjusting the size of live tiles in Windows Phone gives users the option to see more information, but Microsoft should have come up with a way to see more information on smaller live tiles. The smallest, icon sized icons will obviously be severely limited, but the medium sized icons that most apps default to could use some sort of scrolling mechanism to see more information from the Start screen. If the users wants to see everything they can always open the app, but being able to swipe through email headings or read more of a tweet than the first few words would make the Start screen far more useful.

Notification

Notifications

Notifications in general have remained completely unchanged since Windows Phone 7.5. If the screen is unlocked and an app received an update, you will see a toast notification at the top of the screen. Tap it and the respective app will launch and show you the update or swipe the update to the right to dismiss it (something iOS users are surely envious of).

On the lock screen there have been some improvements. For example, you can choose between the Calendar, Facebook, Twitter, Email, Messaging, and Phone apps to display detailed information on the lock screen with quick status notifications on the lock screen from the same group of apps. You may only chose one of those apps for the detailed notification and you can chose five of the remaining apps for quick status notifications on the lock screen. As far as I can tell developers do not have the option to tie their apps into detailed or quick status, which means the only way to see notifications if they occurred when you weren’t looking at your phone is to pin the app to the Start screen.

While some might say that pinned apps to the Start screen is just as good if not better than a full notification hub, I disagree. The Start screen is where I want to pin the apps that I used most. That is the screen that I will look at the most. While it is nice to have quick access to information from my most important apps, I don’t want the Start screen to double as a notification hub.

Notifications are a crucial part of a modern operating system. An operating system that is allegedly designed to let you get in, get out and get on with your life should have a clean, simple notification hub so users can actually see what is going on all in one place. Considering Microsoft’s emphasis on other information hubs, this omission is glaring. It would make a lot of sense for Microsoft to add a notification hub that is accessible from the Start screen by swiping to the right instead of forcing users to pin any app to their Start screen that might receive a notification. While it is nice that users can shrink down the tiles so they do not have to scroll through a huge Start screen to manually search for notifications, that is not a good solution for power users.

Multitasking

Multitasking

Multitasking has also remained largely unchanged. While you can now go back up to seven apps, the behavior is still inconsistent. Some apps are able to resume quickly while others are not. It is also still possible to have two instances of the same app appear in the severely limited multitasking screen. I did have some issue with the Settings app disappearing from the multitasking screen from time to time. I’m not sure if that was supposed to be a feature or if it’s a bug, but it was annoying. Multitasking is supposed to bring some consistency to your app experience, but Windows Phone does nothing of the sort.

While the multitasking screen looks nice (HTC Sense’s version of multitasking looks very similar), it would be even better if you could swipe apps away to close them. When Microsoft first revealed its iteration of multitasking on Windows Phone (yes, it actually launched without multitasking) many drew comparisons to webOS, but unlike webOS (and Android as of Ice Cream Sandwich) the multitasking screen is just to switch apps, not the manage them.

In theory, to close an app you simply relaunch it from the Start screen. Some apps like Rowi resume where you were when you launch them from the Start screen, but most apps launch a fresh instance if they are accessed from the Start screen. This sort of behavior should have been changed in Windows Phone 8. Android, iOS, and even webOS resume your session in an app when it is launched from your home screen or the app launcher. Microsoft should have just went all the way and stolen webOS’ card interface to mange apps.

Windows Phone Store

Apps

Despite Microsoft’s efforts to coerce more developers to write apps for Windows Phone, the app ecosystem has not changed dramatically since Windows Phone 7.5 and the end of the smartphone beta test. Big name apps like Instagram, Tumblr, Pocket, Starbucks, Pandora (coming in 2013), Flipboard, Dropbox, Hulu, and YouTube are still missing. Sure, there are often third party apps that you can use to replace or use these services, but the fact that these kinds of apps are still missing is a huge problem.

To complicate things more, since many of these apps are unavailable in an official form, users are often forced to pay for apps that allow you to use the services instead of the free versions that would come from most of these companies. On top of that, many of the paid third party apps do not work well. There are certainly exceptions (BoxFiles for Dropbox, SBUX Card, YouTube Browser, Blueprints, etc.), but the experience is frustrating to say the least.

On a brighter note, the Microsoft has cleaned up the Windows Phone Store (formerly the Windows Phone Marketplace) so that searches bring up relevant apps. This was a huge problem back when I looked at Windows Phone 7.5, but thankfully a search for Twitter brings up Twitter apps first, then random apps that mention Twitter. Browsing through app sections like Top free and Picks for you also seem improved, offering better suggestions and a more curated experience.

While Microsoft has done a good job at bringing in a lot more big name apps and cleaning up the Store, it still has a lot of work ahead of it. With Google removing Exchange support for Gmail and refusing to make apps for Windows Phone, Microsoft is going to have to push harder to increase adoption. There are certainly plenty of great apps out there, but omissions like Instagram, Tumblr, and Pocket really do hurt Windows Phone’s image, and therefore their chances to succeed in the market.

Games Hub

Games

The game ecosystem has improved slightly since I used Windows Phone 7.5. There are more popular titles and a few more clones of popular titles from Android and iOS. Games are still hidden in the Games app instead of showing up with the rest of your apps. I’m not sure what Microsoft is trying to accomplish by siloing gaming apps into the Games hub, but it would be nice if there were at least an option to have games show up with the rest of your apps.

The improved hardware requirements for Windows Phone could encourage developers of heavier games to develop for Windows Phone, but games like Dead Space or Marvel vs Capcom 2 are still missing. In their place are a number of simpler games from Wordament by Microsoft to Angry Birds Star Wars to Sonic CD. While the games that I played performed well and I didn’t see any issues with games not resuming properly in my testing, the lack of titles was annoying.

The dearth of gaming titles on the mobile platform of a company that has its own console is embarrassing. The fact that there still isn’t a Halo FPS or even side scroller is maddening. Microsoft is literally leaving money on the table by making franchises like Halo console-only. I would be happier with the Windows Phone gaming options if I could at least get a decent number of classic Sega titles, but Sega only has four games available on Windows Phone (Sonic CD, Sonic 4 Episode I, Super Monkey Ball, and Super Monkey Ball 2). Had Microsoft reached deeper into their pockets, they may have been able to coerce Sega to release some exclusive titles to Windows Phone or at least to match their huge library on iOS. When a flailing company like Sega only has four games on your operating system, you know you’re in bad shape.

Camera

Camera

The camera software on Windows Phone 8 has received a number of improvements. In previous version of Windows Phone the camera had a video toggle on the top, a +/- toggle to zoom, and a settings button that opened the full settings pane. While it was a nice, minimalist look, it emphasized digital zooming a little too much considering any amount of digital zoom alone tends to distort an image noticeably.

Windows Phone 8 keeps the minimal design, but puts more useful features on the left of the display. Three dots mark the top of the right panel to drag out the full settings pane (which is much more consistent with the rest of Windows Phone’s behavior than Windows Phone 7.x’s version) followed by the video toggle, the front camera toggle, the flash toggle, and the lens toggle. Sliding out the Settings pane prompts you to chose between altering video and photo settings.

Photo settings in Windows Phone 7.x were rather minimal with a few unhelpful scenes to choose from, some effects, resolution options, metering mode, and flicker adjustment. In short, there was not a lot of emphasis placed on allowing the user to control the camera. Windows Phone 8, on the other hand, offers some of the same effects and resolution options, but adds white balance, exposure, contrast, saturation, sharpness, and ISO controls as well as the option to enable or disable face detection. While you obviously still dont’ have the kind of manual control you would expect from a full fledged camera, there are a lot more options available to enable you to take better shots.

One other neat feature in Windows Phone 8 is the ability to add third party lenses. Bing Vision (which is a barcode/QR code reader) comes built in, but other lenses are available in the Windows Phone Store. One free option, CamWow has a number of filters that can be live previewed and used to take goofy shots with swirling or pinhole or more serious shots with a black and white filter or stencil lens. While many of these are built into Windows Phone, the option to have third party developers build lenses that can be used straight from the camera app is great.

Maps

Maps

The maps experience will differ from device to device. On the 8X I had the built-in Maps app which is designed by Microsoft, but powered by Nokia Maps (much like the Maps app on iOS 5 and before was designed by Apple, but powered by Google Maps). On Nokia devices you will have their Nokia maps app as well as access to Nokia Drive, a voice navigation app with turn-by-turn directions. While Nokia drive will eventually be available to other devices, right now it is a Nokia exclusive, leaving the 8X with the VZ Navigator app (which appropriately is currently rated 2 out of 5 stars).

Overall the design of the Maps app is identical to before. You have access to an arial view (satellite), turn by turn directions, local scout for points of interest, and traffic conditions. Once nice little addition to the Maps app in Windows Phone 8 is the option to display WiFi hotspots. While that sort of information is not super relevant for most consumers, it’s a nice addition.

When getting directions in Windows Phone 7, tapping on each section of the directions would change the visual map and read out loud what the next step was. While tapping to see the next step is still enabled, voice over is gone in Windows Phone 8. This is undoubtedly in preparation for Nokia Drive to be made available to all Windows Phones, but in the mean time it means that non-Nokia Windows Phone 7 devices are actually better for navigation than non-Nokia Windows Phone 8 devices. It would have been nice to see Microsoft at least leave the old functionality in the app until Nokia Drive was released instead of abandoning users to VZ Navigator.

Overall the maps were accurate in my usage, but far less useful than Google Maps. In fact, I would prefer Apple Maps to the mapping solution provided with the HTC 8X. While Microsoft has touted Local Scout to find points of interest near your location, that data is not present by default when browsing through maps. Points of interest can be shown by tapping on Local Scout or initiating a search, but I had issues with some locations missing. In particular, my favorite Starbucks in my home town is missing altogether in Nokia Maps (it is accurately presented in Google Maps and on the wrong side of the street in Apple Maps). While Apple Maps is often derided for misinformation, I could have still seen the Starbucks from the street with Apple Maps; Nokia Maps doesn’t even acknowledge its existence.

Office

Office

Microsoft Office has remained useful if you use SkyDrive, but not very useful otherwise. You can still create and sync Excel sheets and Word documents. You cannot make a PowerPoint presentation on your phone, but they will open and you can make some small edits. OneNote has its own app which does a good job syncing between the full desktop application. In fact, if you’re a student who relies on OneNote, the Windows Phone application is really nice.

For whatever reason Microsoft continues to tout Office as a huge advantage for Windows Phone users, but the reality of the situation is that Office for Windows Phone is only marginally better than Notepad on Windows or TextEdit on OS X. To make matters worse, Google offers Drive for free on Android and iOS with even more functionality than Office. Even Apple’s Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, which are $10 each, blow Office for Windows Phone out of the water. This says nothing of the other full productivity suites available on Android and iOS like Documents to Go and QuickOffice.

Most people are probably not using their phones to make major changes to documents, but at least on Android and iOS you have the power to do so. Sure, on a Windows 8 device you have the option to have the full Office experience, but it still isn’t really optimized for touch and it doesn’t deal with mobile emergency: having to make a major change to a document and not being able to on a Windows Phone. Considering how much Microsoft is pushing Office as a competitive advantage over Android and iOS, I would have hoped that they would have improved the Office experience instead of making it feel like a free trial.

Today

Email, Calendar, Contacts

The email, calendar, and contacts experience remains relatively unchanged. Despite a larger, higher resolution display, the 8X still only displayed my most recent 5 emails (the same as my Trophy running Windows Phone 7.5). Apparently Microsoft employees don’t use email that often and think that 5 is an appropriate number of emails to display. Most of the display is taken up with giant text for each sender. The design is reflected in Outlook 2013 as well with giant text for the sender and regular sized text for the email preview (something I was able to disable in Outlook 2013, but not in Windows Phone 8). For casual users that might be fine, but for a business user (which should theoretically be a huge demographic for Microsoft), they want to be able to see as much information as possible.

Once you open an email you’re greeted with a large avatar for that user (provided you have an image in your contacts for that person), their name in giant text yet again, the subject in blue, regular sized text, followed by the metadata for the email and then the email’s actual text. Emails sent in HTML are squished to fit into the size of the display, which often means that portions of the email may be cut off or formatted incorrectly. Pinch-to-zoom is enabled, but it does not solve the problem of emails displaying incorrectly. Even turning the phone to landscape does not resolve the issue. This is an issue that has persisted since Windows Phone 7 and is yet another area that Microsoft, the company behind Exchange and Outlook, absolutely should have resolved before.

The Calendar app is a nightmare. It defaults to a day view, where you can scroll through each hour of the day to see what is going on today. A swipe to the left shows your whole agenda (which is actually useful) and another shows you your To-Do list. There is no week view. You can switch to a month view, which uses a .5 size font to let you know that something might be happening on a certain day, but in order to view anything you have to press on that day, leaving the month view.

This isn’t all that different from the stock Android calendar app, although at least there you have some semblance of a week view. Samsung’s calendar app on the Galaxy S III, while ugly, replicates the functionality of the calendar app in iOS, which gives you a month view in which you can select a date and see the day’s events all in the same view. There are third party apps in the Store (Live Calendar and Calendar[+] are both good options) that provide this functionality to make the calendar app more useful, but the built in app is essentially only good for its agenda view.

The People hub is essentially unchanged from before in terms of managing and browsing contacts. For casual social network users this has the potential to keep you posted on what your close friends are up to if they use Facebook and Twitter regularly. The idea is that it can be a one stop app to show you the important things going on in your friends and family’s lives. In my own practice I found it was easier to keep up in third party apps than to rely on the People hub, but again, this is clearly designed for casual social networkers.

One neat new feature for a group of friends or a family with Windows Phone is Rooms. Rooms is a new feature in the People hub that allows you to communicate with a group of people through chat, a shared calendar, photos, and notes. The app is clearly tailored towards families (the examples given are overtly family related), but it could be useful for other groups of people to stay in touch (like classmates working on a project together). While business users will probably still rely on Exchange, I can see where this sort of funcationality would be really beneficial for a family of Windows Phone users to keep track of everyone’s schedule.

Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8

Conclusions

Microsoft has taken some important steps towards creating a competitive operating system, but they are still far from reaching parity with Android and iOS. The lack of apps, subpar multitasking, and abysmal notification system are three major issues that Windows Phone has faced since its launch. The app situation is improving, but I wouldn’t call it hopeful. Huge parts of the operating system feel like they were designed for Windows 8 on a desktop because they require so much visual area, which leads to little content and lots of blank space (which is also an issue in many native Windows 8 apps).

Windows Phone feels like a suped up feature phone with full access to the web and a few apps. For users who are loosely connected to others through social networks, want a decent camera, and don’t play a lot of games on their phone, Windows Phone could be a great solution. For most people, however, Windows Phone is simply too different from the competition. It’s not that people won’t appreciate the look and feel of Windows Phone (in fact I think most people would enjoy it), but rather that Windows Phone behaves irrationally compared to industry standard UI paradigms and lacks important apps.

Like I said the last time I reviewed Windows Phone, I would love for a third operating system to truly compete with Android and iOS, but Windows Phone simply is not that operating system right now. Microsoft may have incredibly deep pockets to keep investing into Windows Phone, but the longer it takes for them to reach parity, the more users are choosing different ecosystems. As it becomes increasingly more difficult to leave an ecosystem and as we continue our march towards smartphone ubiquity, Microsoft is going to have a much harder time penetrating the market in any significant way.

When trying to enter an established market there is a temptation to do something totally different, but making something too different means having to retrain users. The shift from a command-line interface to a graphic user interface meant having to retrain users how to use computers. Smartphones required a similar retraining, with iOS setting the ground work and Android following along shortly thereafter. While there are important differences between Android and iOS, both follow the same basic UI patterns and ideas. Microsoft elected to take a radically different path which enabled them to stand out from the pack, but it also created a larger barrier to entry than iOS or Android present to the average user. If Windows 8 tablets take the tablet market by storm then Windows Phone will undoubtedly feel more natural to more users, but until then it faces an uphill battle in reeducating users how to use a smartphone.

It is discouraging that after two years of trying Microsoft still has yet to really break into the market, but the reality is that Microsoft has not put in the work it needs to in order to make Windows Phone a success. Microsoft is going to have to work much, much harder if they want to push themselves into an already crowded market. Perhaps by the launch of Windows Phone 9 Microsoft will finally have a competitive operating system.

*Editor’s note – Yes, this is a post about Windows Phone. And yes, this is an Android site. We also like to look closely at the competition and share our thoughts on it. No, we aren’t going to start covering Windows Phone or iOS or Blackberry on a regular basis, but when something new comes out, we typically like to check it out. 

  • JulianMyers

    These phones seem like toys to me, and when I’m out and about with my real estate clients, I want a phone that looks substantial. These look more like phones for teen-agers. Since it’s on AT&T’s 4G LTE network here in Austin perhaps I could get it for my daughter. At least it doesn’t weigh as much as the Nokia 920 Windows phone.

  • mikewoodsonsbeard

    Everyone talks about WP8 being great and “something new” (Apple allegedly ripped off the Lumia design for its new Ipods) but the launch is a disaster. They pushed an OS updates that makes the experience even more worthless than it already is with the random rebooting. The second time this has happened since WP8. And I know plenty of Android phones that rebooting problems, most famously HTC and Motorola, but Samsung at least makes phones that somewhat function regularly. Until you download an OTA update that is.

  • feztheforeigner

    Maybe it’s just a personal pet peeve of mine but I’m always frustrated when people use the word literally incorrectly…

    “Microsoft is literally leaving money on the table by making franchises like Halo console-only”

    Other than that, this was a very good article. I like to keep an eye on my ‘enemies’.

    • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa

      I’ll change it to figuratively.

  • socalrailroader

    I love my Nokia Lumia 920! I carry a Nexus 4 too, so I do dual OS’s :D

  • dsignori

    Thanks for the interesting review! I am curious about WP8, though I am not interesting in switching. It is good to read about what else is out there , for sure.

    I get the feeling that Microsoft has the staying power and the will to see this through in the long term. Even if it takes years of losses or low market share, I feel like they will eventually be a strong mobile competitor, with larger market share. I don’t get that feeling about RIM, for what it’s worth. It is a shame about the lack of Google apps on WP8 though. It is hard to imagine that Google wouldn’t want at least a Google Plus app – since they are pushing that thing to kingdom come :-). I do understand the rational, but I don’t really like it.

    That said, let’s face it, for the long term, WP8 is really the ONLY viable competing OS that a multitude of OEMs can use other than Android. No one else is building iOS or RIM products except those companies. Android and WP8 are the only real platforms that most any company can build a device and that is an important distinction.

    It is both interesting and wise to know what is available in the overall market. Folks that don’t like seeing reviews like this, well, have the option not to read it :-) .

  • Jorge Corral

    After 2 yrs with Android I moved to WP8 and I’m happy, I have no problems with the apps because most of them looks better than iOS or android, fortunately I found all my apps some of them by 3rd party (pandora = radio controlled and is looking better than the
    original). Migration of contacts, apps, etc. also was too easy…

    The live tiles allows you to see the notifications, also you can manage notifications for your lock screen, so everybody wants the android & iOS style? Why??

    I don’t see problems with the multitasking, you can go back to any of the previous 7 apps easily…
    WP8 is not perfect because is too new, there is no competition with the mature of iOS or Android, but I found more innovation and better app and ecosystem style in WP, and I’m not going back to another android if they dont come with something really new or different.. probably I was tired of the same.

  • Jeromeonchrome

    great

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1603971880 Howard Abraham

    I have been a Windows Phone user since launch of WP7. I currently use an HTC 8X on T-Mobile. I just wanted to compliment you on this unbiased review. There were only a couple of inaccuracies that may be accurate from an end-user perspective, but not so on a technical level.

    The live tile can have three states; the icon-only (small) mode, medium, and large. It is up to the developer to specify the functionality of the medium and large-sized icon. They may have, but are not required to have, live information. This information is dictated by push notifications. I was going to say that they are not less powerful that a widget, but as I type this I will grant that they are functional, useful, yet slightly less powerful than a full-blown widget. :D

    However, I will make a correction on the behavior of multitasking. While it is true that it is inconsistent, it is up to the app developer to specify the behavior of a resume. If the developer does not properly handle the task-switching behavior, it will act as a restart rather than a resume. In some cases, a restart is the desired behavior. You could argue that Microsoft’s implementation of multitasking is flawed, but I would counter that it works great if developers play along.

    On thing you didn’t mention is pinning contacts (and yourself) to the start screen. It is a nice feature to get status updates on your favorite contacts’ live tiles plus rapid access to call and text them. Pinning yourself to the start screen gives you notifications for FB mentions, tweets, email, etc. plus easy access to check-in and update your status to social networks, and a place to set your chat status.

    You also didn’t mention XBOX Music (formerly Zune Pass). It’s a music subscription service that I find very valuable and enjoy tremendously. I particularly enjoy SmartDJ where you pick and artist and it builds a library based on similar artists from Microsoft’s vast catalog, then streams those tracks to your phone. It’s a bit like Pandora with a wider variety of artists and you can listen to the songs as many times as you like.

    Maybe when you were reviewing apps you missed Local Scout. It tells you nearby restaurants (including price/reviews), things to see and do, places to shop, and suggestions that are based on your searches and preferences.

    I’m not familiar with Android phones. My only experience with Android is being the owner of a first-gen Kindle Fire, and I’m not sure if that counts. The only reason I’m at this site is because the review of WP8 caught my eye and I was curious what was being said.

    (BTW–There are several turn-by-turn navigation apps available. You don’t need to rely on what comes bundled by Verizon.)

    • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa

      Thanks, I try to be as objective as possible.

      I’m aware that some apps restart from Start and some resume (I gave Rowi as an example), but I think that kind of inconsistency makes for a bad user experience. The Me tile is essentially the same thing as the People hub, which I did review. As I said, it’s really only useful if the user is a casual social networking user; power users will want 3rd party apps. I did not cover XBOX Music because I did not think it would make an overall difference in my review. Is it a good service? Yes, but it isn’t something that you can’t get elsewhere. I mentioned Local Scout three times in my review (under the Maps section). The reason I only mentioned VZ Navigator is that when you ask for turn by turn directions in the Maps app it only shows that option. Eventually Nokia Drive should be there as well (I believe).

  • Nathan Abdelsayed

    I just got the windows phone 8X from work. I had the Bionic before. And to be totally honest it is a huge upgrade. The phone feels really good in my hand the screen is awesome. While there are not nearly as many apps the apps do look better. For example the facebook app actully works on my windows phone 8. Also the ESPN app is SOOOOOO much better than the android version. I also disagree about the notification settings I havent has any kind of problem and I liek that I can pin what I want on the start screen!

  • jcorf

    Great review Ron!

  • BHDave10

    I like reviews like this. It’s always refreshing to know that Android is the best.

  • RaptorOO7

    I was using an HTC Trophy while as a backup phone and honestly the phone was easy to use, a good performing device though it lacked a large screen and 4G LTE and SD card slot.

    I think MS can deliver on a quality platform that will compete well. But once again for me its the sheer LACK of products offered by Verizon that made stop dead in my tracks from considering another WP device. Right now they have an HTC, Nokia and still waiting on Samsung to deliver. Perhaps in another year or two they will be much better positioned.

    The UI formerly known as Metro UI is really simple to use with a quick glance at the info you need and if iOS users think the iphone is soooo easy they should try WP its even easier.

    More product offerings and maybe they will make a dent. But WP will go nowhere until Verizon and other carriers actually start carrying real product choices.

    Verizon has the following:

    Android 27 Devices
    iOS 3 Devices
    BlackBerry 3 Devices

    Windows Phone 3 Devices – HTC Trophy shouldn’t be there but it is.

    So tell me which platform Verizon pushes the most.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jaxon.wright Jaxon Wright

      it’s not verizon’s fault that there are a ton more android devices than iOS, BB, and WP combined.

  • CharlesJorgenson

    The enemy of my enemy is my friend

  • Mallahet

    Man, Windows 8 is horrible.

  • JDub

    I dont know if “competition” is the right word to use in the title.

  • bibleverse1

    I will strongly consider a wp8 device when I see once unlocked for 199.99 or 249.99.

  • skinja99

    Doesn’t the WP8 interface seem like it takes LONGER to do things than Android. Things like switch between apps or open a file while music is playing?

  • Droidzilla

    WP8 has the same issue as WP7 did for Microsoft. They basically made a product because they want a piece of the mobile pie. They knew no one would purchase an Android or iOS clone because we already have Android and iOS, so they decided to be different. That part was smart. However, they fell flat because they’ve thus far achieved only being different; not really superior in any way.

    This is what you have to answer, Microsoft: why should I switch from Android or even iOS to WP8? “Because it’s different” doesn’t cut it. iOS brought a clean, simple, touch friendly interface in a world of stylus mini-computers with resistive screens. Android brought in a world of functionality and customisability in an iOS world of one-way to use your device. What does WP8 bring?

  • cooksta32676

    blackberry and windows are pulling 5 percent market share, combined. Enough said.

    • Droidzilla

      This. If WP8 wasn’t a Microsoft product, no one would even be talking about it. Even so, seems no one is purchasing it. Which is a good thing; high time Microsoft was told that we won’t purchase their stuff just because it’s theirs. They have to earn our dollar, like Google and the Android OEMs did.

  • Eric Soriano

    I would like to try one of these and maybe have one as a back up but the resale market is still very high. I will wait a few months and pick one up for much less.

  • http://twitter.com/EzioAuditore007 Ezio 007 Shepard

    Yes, this is an Android blog, but since we as consumers should always be evaluating our options, this is a perfect place to discuss other OSes. I appreciate that it is posted here, because, frankly, after the horrible treatment MS did on 6/6.5 while they were getting 7 ready, and then all it turns out to be is live tiles, I am happy at my choice to move to Android. I have no interest in returning to WIndows Phone (nor believe they will be around 5 years from now) but it is good to keep up on what is happening in their world.

  • JohnPA2006

    I was checking an HTC 8x in best buy for about 10 minutes the other day. Its a very nice phone. Its small but still has a good sized screen. Windows Phone 8 is catching up to iOS and Android.

    Its a great phone, Microsoft just needs to get enough developers on board to make sure this phone has all the big title apps that android and apple have.

    I would get one if I didnt already have a Galaxy S3. Windows Phone 8 has come a long way.

  • Aaron

    I like the looks of WP8 hardware, but the paint-by-numbers OS is just not appealing for me. I hate Metro on my XBox and I won’t have it on my desktop or phone.

    And I know people are hating a WP8 review on Droid Life, but I’m glad for it. Especially since it shows that I am not missing anything in the way of features. I’d like to see a legitimate third option emerge to keep the market fresh. Maybe BB10? Nah.

    • cns2007

      I thought I was the only one. I just don’t care for the look of the tiles. Maybe because I usually go for a minimalist look on my homescreens. The tile-style seems too cluttered. For me, at least.

      That said, I do hope WP sees some level success. The more these companies innovate, the better for us, the consumer.

  • http://twitter.com/willrockyou Willian

    Reporting “lack of apps” for a new mobile OS as an issue is something annoying sometimes and obvious. What would you expect? Hire thousands of developers and just release the OS once they reach 500K apps? And as far as I know they were at 100K six months ago which is not bad, not sure about now.

    I’m just saying that would be probably better tell people that you had a hard time when looking for apps you need for your ‘daily activities’ or entertainment maybe. Did you?!

    Nice review about the competition though :)

    … still waiting to be able to get my Nexus 4 :(

    • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa

      A two year old OS isn’t really new. And yes, I did have a difficult time finding the apps I use on a daily basis, but I may not use the same kinds of apps as others. It’s a very subjective issue.

      • Guest

        Exactly.

      • http://twitter.com/willrockyou Willian

        New compared to Android and iOS I meant…

        • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa

          Gotcha. Definitely new compared to them.

      • http://twitter.com/willrockyou Willian

        Thanks for your answer anyway :)

  • http://twitter.com/BlackBlizzNerd Ben Landwehr

    Saw this phone in person for the first time about 4 days ago when my friend brought it over. This thing looks beautiful! I was envious for sure when it comes to hardware.

  • Drummer62

    I wish to never read another story about windows phone ever again on this web site :)

    • ERIC REED

      I pretty sure you weren’t forced to read this one…

  • MicroNix

    Ron this isn’t the Droid we’re looking for.

    • Cowboydroid

      There sure are a lot of WP fanboys upvoting their brethren, though.

  • Sobr0801

    I am a convert from Android to WP. I love it. While its not perfect, it does everything I need. That said my wife switched to WP with me and missed all her games on Android, so I bought her a Nexus 7… she loves it.
    Reading briefly through the review I see you missed something’s, especially with your look at SkyDrive. No biggy though, I doubt this review was going to convert anyone from Droid-Life over.
    Love Droid-Life :)

    • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa

      My 4,400 word article missed some things? Impossible. :-p

      I chose not to cover absolutely everything. It’s not supposed to be exhaustive, just give readers the big picture. More SkyDrive features or Xbox Music didn’t change my overall review, so I passed them up. Maybe next time.

      • Sobr0801

        Good article either way!! Love your stuff Ron.

  • nexus rules!

    Wft is this! forgive me if I’m mistaken but I could have sworn this was an ANDROID! Website, hell if I want an impartial view of competing ecosystems OS’s I’ll go to the verge or Engadget etc.. NOT droid life……. Why don’t you guys dump the droid moniker and switch to tech life. This is a first for me I bet windows websites or iOS websites don’t review android products !

    • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa
      • MicroNix

        Yeah, I noticed when all of the cool root stuff started going away. New app reviews were starting to go away. And then talk about the iPhone and WP started. Thanks for making it all crystal clear now Ron. Time to change the order at which I browse ANDROID related sites. You competition has been bringing it lately and deserve my readership more than the site that originally got me hooked into Android. Its a sad day indeed.

        • evltwn

          See ya..

        • Timothy McGovern

          I’m sure everyone here will miss you. *sarcasm

    • Bionicman

      i appreciate a review of a Windows Phone by an Android enthusiast. though i have very little interest in purchasing a Windows Phone now or in the near future, i still am interested in what the competition puts out. Good job Ron!

  • Andrew

    Hmm. I may get a WP8 device in the coming months. Thanks for the review!

    • J. Johnson

      I’m considering switching too. Either when I’m sure there will be no more high end slider Android phones or WP gets a great Amazon S3 client. Whichever comes first.

      • JasonIvers

        I think Motorola will continue to have a reasonably high-end slider for some time… not really sure about anyone else (at least in the US).

        • Raven

          I hope so. I am still waiting impatiently for the Droid 5.

          • Addinsx

            Or we could realize keyboards are dead and it’s 2012?

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=716789798 Lonnie Kerchief

            I’d use a tablet-slider if they sold one. Oh yeah, they do, it’s called a laptop and my tablet collects dust because I simply despise on-screen keyboards. The moment a 1080P slider is offered, my DNA is going up on Ebay. I get a new phone every 3-6 months and I’ve tried to like on-screen keyboards, but I simply prefer the real deal and my favorite phones to use have always been ones with keyboards.

        • James T.

          With Google controlling Motorola Mobility now, I’m not sure about that anymore. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

      • James T.

        I’m waiting for a good Amazon S3 client for WP8 too. I currently use S3AnywherePro on my Droid 4. I’m also waiting for a good SSH client.

        I gave up on having a good keyboard Android phone. With each new version of Android, slider keyboard integration has gone down hill. The same with apps. Less and less apps support keyboard shortcuts. The built-in apps for my Droid 4 have conflicting keyboard shortcuts (ie. stock browser) or just not there anymore (ie. go to start or end of a line). Many of the keyboard shortcuts involve the menu and alt buttons and that’s disappearing on newer phones too. I have to say the Droid 1 with Froyo had the best keyboard integration.

        With the keyboard gone, I don’t really have much reason to stay with Android anymore.

  • AlexKCMO

    I haven’t played with WP8 but I did have a WP7.5 phone for work. The best thing about it was it’s seamless integration with Exchange. I would never use WP as a main phone, but as a secondary device to use for work, it was fantastic.

    They should be going after enterprise since most IT managers I know dislike problems both Android and iOS have with Exchange.

    • 1bens

      On Exchange mail, I certainly have fits with iOS and issues with meetings but I particularly hate that iDevices don’t help generate a server side unlock passcode for when users forget their passcode. Android does for the most part depending on the model.

  • SMoose

    Err, you left out battery. I switched from Galaxy Nexus to the Lumia 810. App store definitely leaves alot to be desired but the battery on this is amazing.

    That being said, I bought my family Nexuses. Nexii. Whatever.

    • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa

      I left out battery life because that will vary by device and usage.

      • Sobr0801

        It really doesn’t. All the phones use the same Microsoft approved: chipsets, screen resolution, and no skins. This being said all WP’s get great battery life, even if your a heavy user.

        • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa

          I did not see consistent behavior across the devices I’ve used. Was battery life good? Yes, but like all phones, it will heavily vary based on your usage.

          • SMoose

            I actually switched from an 8x to a Lumia 810. And you’re right, the battery wasn’t consistent between the two and it certainly isn’t consistent between, say, a Lumia 920 and an 810. Different screen size, processor, even different batteries between all WP devices.

            However, there IS a minimal capacity that all WPs meet and that bottom line is higher than Android phones IMO. Obviously, as AlexKCMO mentioned, WP doesn’t have as extensive of apps/multitasking as Android does and that contributes to the stronger battery life. But I still think it should be mentioned.

            As for Asianrage…we’re talking about WP8 vs. WP7. Despite the fact that you just called me wrong and biased on something that has been proven based on one story you have, I still don’t know that much about the performance of WP7.

            I’m definitely not biased. I went from Iphone to Motorola Triumph to Galaxy Nexus to this phone. In fact, I still recommend Android over WP to most people…

          • Sobr0801

            I think he was responding to me, either way he is more of on the attack then anything else. Our situations are very similar moose. But yeah I was talking about WP8.

        • asianrage

          The fact that my father in-law’s HTC Trophy kept on dying after 8 hours despite him barely using it, means that you’re quite wrong and biased. And that was just WP7 on 800MHz chip. The Thunderbolt lasted longer under the same operating condition while on LTE.

          • Sobr0801

            First I was talking about WP8, which the article is about. Second, I was stating pure facts. As Smoose states “there IS a minimal capacity that all WPs meet and that bottom line is higher than Android phones IMO”. I also owned a Trophy it had decent battery life, much better then my Rezound (with my LTE turned off).

    • AlexKCMO

      Of course the battery is amazing…. there aren’t any apps to drain it :-P.

    • Sobr0801

      God I have to agree. My battery life on my 920 is ridiculously good. I don’t use a lot of apps, and the ones I do use work great (ebay, paypal, weatherflow, BBC, NPR, engadget, Skydrive, imdb, metro tube, ESPN FF, WordFeud). I really do love WP, and could never see my self going back to Android.

  • Bionic

    Windows phones simply blow.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1312291338 Tim Miller

      As do your uninsightful comments!

  • Klennex

    Looks like someone is starting to get paid to review WIndows phones. SMH..Atleast come out and make an announcement that going forward this will no longer be exclusive to Android

    • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa
      • MicroNix

        Then perhaps this site shouldn’t be labeled “Droid Life” anymore if its going to be more than “Droid Life”. I don’t think people go to “Apple Insider” to see reviews on Android phones (which they don’t). Just sayin.

        • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa

          It’s a one off thing for Droid-Life. Every once in a while we like to cover what’s going on in other ecosystems. It’s good to know the competition even if you’re dedicated to one platform.

    • Droidzilla

      I really like the idea of looking at WP8 from an Android user’s perspective. Carry on, Droid Life!

      • Flyinion

        Agreed. I’ve been tempted by WP8 myself after hearing lots of good things about it in other places. One reason I was tempted by WP was that I use their Zunepass (now Xbox Music pass) subscription service and it would have offered a way to consolidate two devices.

        I had thought about going with a WP8 phone then getting a Nexus 7 to keep my Android stuff. Of course with the switch to Xbox Music and the announcement that Android and iOS will both eventually get an app for it combined with reviews like this of WP8, I don’t really see myself going anywhere now.

        • Droidzilla

          I put a more lengthy bit a little farther on, but here’s my basic opinion of WP8: Microsoft wants a piece of the mobile pie, but they have to differentiate from iOS and Android. So far, all they’ve done is be different; they have yet to bring something new to the table. Microsoft has to give us something worth leaving Android for (like Android did to iPhone, and iPhone did to Blackberry); as yet, all they have is, “well, it’s not Android or iPhone.” Make it better, Microsoft!

  • Dan

    There is nothing any carrier can do, Android is the future.. Deal with it.

  • elliot323

    FEATURE PARITY WITH IOS!?!? iOS is an app launcher with full web browsing, this is an Android blog, don’t give iOS more than it deserves

  • AndreGSNE

    I have to say that the operating system and the phones that are out now for Windows Phone 8 are extremely visually attractive. However, like you mentioned, the notifications and multi-tasking systems are what are holding me back. Although I might purchase a budget phone like the 8S to play around with.

  • John

    This is a new one to me. A full Windows phone review on an Android site.

    Anyway, I think your conclusion is pretty spot on. They have a shi t ton of work to do in order to catch up. I’m all for competitiveness so I hope this next year brings some more big changes for Windows phones.

    • JoshGroff

      I know right, I mean who does that. ;) Hey, I’m just glad I have something to read later that I’m somewhat interested in reading about.

  • Go Hawkeyes

    Although I’m sure there will be a lot of, “Dude, this is an Android blog, why are you reviewing a Windows phone?” type comments, I’m glad you took the time to review this phone. It’s always good to know your enimies.

    • EvanTheGamer

      Gotta agree. What’s next…reviewing iPhones and iPad Mini’s? Yes, the world has surely ended…if that ever happens. lol

      • sk3litor

        I kinda agree as well. Nobody ever said this was an un- bias tech site. kinda confiding for someone looking for an all android ” home” considering its called droid life but ultimately its kellens choice and personally I’m cool with it. I don’t mind the occasional ” recon” mission ;)

        • EvanTheGamer

          Yeah, true that. It is Kellen’s(and Tim’s of course, haha) site after all, and what he says goes in terms of how he wants to run his own site.

          I just prefer to only see Android related tech devices, apps, and games, etc. I just don’t like seeing “Apple” in the headlines of some posts sometimes. lol

          But I have no problem with Microsoft as I’ve been a fan of MS WAYYYYYYY longer than Android has even existed in the technological world. I just found it strange that Droid-Life is now reviewing other competitors phones when this is an Android related site.

          But regardless of everything I just typed up, I’ll continue to frequent Droid-Life, as I think it’s still by far the greatest Android tech blog on the interwebs.

    • kidtronic

      Enemies? Please don’t call them that. -_-

      • Go Hawkeyes

        How about competition? Although WP isn’t much competition.

        • michael arazan

          Exactly. It’s a Great Idea, but terrible execution.

          Too much focus on the skin/ look & style, without enough sustenance underneath. And without popular, basic, and daily used apps, no point especially if you are already invested in paid apps on android or ios to change. If there was a way to switch to a different os and take all the paid apps you have with, or shows you paid for it already, people may switch between different os more. The Surface tablet they mad looks more amazing than the phone, I’d love to get my hands on the Surface tablet, if I could transfer my apps over to it, but can’t.

          • kidtronic

            For all the talk of having a 3rd player help to push innovation, I really don’t see them lighting a fire under Google or Apple when they can’t even keep up. And technically RIM still has that third spot. All I’ve seen from them is a grotesquely monochromatic interface and distasteful advertising missteps.

    • PhillipCun

      Why not? If we don’t understand WHY we like Android and how Android stacks up to the competition how can you decide objectively that Android best fits your needs. Why wouldn’t you want to understand all your choices and make a educated decision. Its good to be educated, its good to make the right decisions based on your own opinions and not by marketing tactics. Don’t be a sheep, seriously, there’s nothing wrong with this article. This site isn’t Android-Cult like, that’s why many of its readers keep coming back.

    • master94

      Agree, not to mention Android has zero competition now. All apple does is sue and steal Android features, WP is completely unique and gives Android some much needed competition.In the long run run we consumers win.

  • NickA

    Nice thorough review. I picked up a Lumia 920 on release day last month and I really like it. However, I went back to Android buying a Droid DNA last night. I had a Windows phone (HTC Titan) when WP7 came out, and returned that as well. There just seems to be something missing with Windows Phone OS. I’m not an app person, so that doesn’t really bother me. I think it’s like you said: it’s a suped up feature phone. They keyboard is fantastic though.

    • Sobr0801

      I am confused. Did you leave Verizon for a Lumia 920, then comeback and buy a Droid DNA?

  • DanWazz

    WTF is this! Seriously though, played with these in the Verizon store a few weeks ago and I had to say I enjoyed the Nokia over the HTC even though it’s bulkier. Then I pulled my Nexus out of my pocket and forgot about both of them.

    • JoshGroff

      Windows phone, the OS that you play with for a few minutes and say this is cool, and then forget all about it.

    • yarrellray

      It all depends on which Nexus you pulled out. If you had that wanna be Nexus that’s currently on Verizon i wouldn’t have pulled that out at all. That device is the WORST NEXUS EVER and reminds me of that wanna be Evo 4g the Htc Thunderdud that was on Verizon. Buy a new phone buddy.

      • Pengwn

        I understand that the Gnex is terrible with receiving updates due to big red, but that’s what the unlockable bootloader is for(If you really thought Verizon would play along with letting google update their device, I’m sorry you got your hopes up. This is Verizon people.)

        4.2.1 is rock solid on this Phone and I don’t see myself upgrading until moto releases a Nexus. Hopefully that “X phone” is the next OG.